Meet the Quilt Artists: Mary Eeg and Trisha DellaVella
This is part of a series of profiles of quilt artists involved in a project that saw Canadian quilters send their art to be displayed in a quilt show in Taiwan that will begin on April 30 and run through May, 2016. Read about the project here and find links to other participant profiles.
This profile features not one artist, but two. They've worked together on many other projects, so it was only natural for Mary Eeg and Trisha DellaVella to team up to make an art quilt for the TAQS show in Taiwan.
These two ladies have worked together for a many years sewing, crafting, quilting, teaching and pattern making. Together they form the pattern company Harebrained Happenings, and together they created an art quilt for the show.
My journey began in a cabin in the Rockies where my father was employed as a teacher. We soon moved to Montreal where I grew up, went to college, worked as a computer programmer/auditor, got married, and lived until the1976 bilingual uproar in Quebec. At that time, my husband and I joined the exodus to Toronto with our 3 dogs in tow. My mother was a piano teacher, into music, poetry, philosophy and other ethereal pursuits; definitely nothing domestic. No sewing box in our house!
I had one brother who was in his own boy world, as I was in mine. My father later worked for Trans Canada Airlines (now known as Air Canada) One of the perks of his job was free airline passes, which allowed us to do a bit of traveling.
I spent each summer with my grandmother in a small village near Kingston. She introduced me to cooking, sewing and crafting. She could turn her hand to anything. As a widow during the depression she sold many of her quilts, rugs, etc. to supplement the family income. I learned to sew on her treadle machine, with fabrics found in her attic. It only had one stitch, but it did the job, and I proudly wore my creations out in public!
After moving to Toronto, I went back to school to get my nursing degree. Nursing allowed me to work part time and also be home with our three children. I had done some sewing in college, but after starting a family, I began sewing and knitting in earnest not only for the kids, but also for our three dogs. Each dog had his/her own reversible coat and sweater long before they became fashionable. I also enrolled in a variety of classes, including learning to make stained glass, porcelain dolls, scroll sawing, etc.
When we moved to Scarborough in 1984, I met my neighbor Trisha and we became partners in crime. We took classes in every craft imaginable, sold our creations at a number of venues, and hosted our own annual show. After completing a quilting class in 2003, we designed our first pattern quite by chance. It was a success. So with blind confidence, we forged ahead creating more patterns. Being able to bring our ideas to life using fabric became addictive.
In 2007 we established our pattern company Harebrained Happenings. Many of our designs tickle our funny bones, and reflect our love of children, animals and nature. Between us we have 5 grandchildren who act as our muses and provide inspiration for many of our juvenile themed patterns. We love designing, presenting our trunk shows, hosting workshops, and vending at quilt shows. With no shortage of ideas, we two “harebrained” ladies will continue to create new patterns for your enjoyment as long as time, health and energy permits. Have a peek at our latest creations at www.harebrainedhappenings.com.
I was born and raised in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia – the second oldest of 7 children with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. My Dad was a coal miner and carpenter and I remember him building our home from two rooms and adding on as more children arrived. My stay-at-home Mom always had a hot meal prepared for us when we came home for lunch. There are lots of happy memories of growing up in a large extended family with many cousins, aunts and uncles and playing outdoors summer and winter.
While Mom sewed and mended most of our clothes, she also taught me to sew using her sewing machine. I was around the age of 10 when I sewed a full wardrobe for a teenaged doll I received at Christmas using her stash of fabrics.
Sewing was not only a passion; it became my lifestyle as I made most of my own clothes while a medical secretary for the Chief of Gastro at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. I was there for many years before I married at age 30 and we started our family.
As a stay-at-home Mom, I supplemented our income with my sewing and dressmaking. I made my own drapes, slip covers, upholstered chairs. I designed and created competitive dance costumes, prom and bridesmaids dresses as well as setting up a classroom in our home to teach children and adults how to sew. We moved to Scarborough 30 years ago, where I met Mary who lived across the court from our home.
Along the way Mary and I started an annual at-home craft show which included all things sewn, folk art, woodworking, dried flowers and macramé – if you could name it we would try it. The one thing I avoided was quilting as I knew in my heart that I would love it and there just wasn’t time to fit it into my life.
We converted our basement into a classroom in 1988 and started a program called ‘Kids Can Sew’ where I continued teaching children and adults sewing for 20 years. In 2003 it was time to explore the world of quilting and we were hooked. After completing our basic sampler quilts we decided to create our own tote bags for taking supplies to and from class.
Positive feedback and requests for a pattern encouraged us to produce our first pattern – Pet Lovers Bag. Our passion for designing and quilting, combined with our history of creative endeavors was reignited and ultimately led to the formation of our pattern company: Harebrained Happenings.
Along the way there have been some challenges. I had open heart surgery at age 52 and then was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 at age 60. I am happy to say I am an 8 year breast cancer survivor. When one door closes another opens, and our ideas and plans change. I gave up my classroom at home but continued to teach at the local sewing store. I just gave that up this past fall to start retirement and now enjoy 2 months in Florida each year.
My husband and I have 2 grown children and a 2 ½ year old granddaughter with a grandson expected in late June. It’s funny to think that 34 years ago when I had my son I was at odds about wanting to be a stay-at-home Mom and wondering what to do with my life.
One day my older sister said that I should do what I was best at. I looked at her in bewilderment. Her response was - “Your talent is in sewing”. I had never thought of it in that way, so I started to sew for others, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Since most of our quilt patterns are designed using fusible machine appliqué, we interpreted the challenge of ‘Restoring the Earth’s Environment’ in this medium. Our quilt showcases the destruction of our forests and how our children could help redevelop our land for future generations. The quilt shows the stages of evolution as the trees grow and how they come to enjoy the maturation and expansion of their work.
Seeds of Promise
Materials and Techniques
We used cottons, fusible web, quilt batting, embroidery threads and netting. Techniques used are fusible machine appliqué and free motion quilting.
'Seeds of Promise' detailed closeup